Late Night Snacks: No. 2 Michigan State, No. 12 North Carolina struggle

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Nevada 92, San Francisco 90 

The battle between the Wolf Pack and Dons didn’t lack for entertainment, with the two starting point guards leading the way. Nevada’s Deonte Burton finished with 31 points and six rebounds, while San Francisco’s Cody Doolin tallied 33 points and four assists in a losing effort.

A key for the Wolf Pack was their ability to neutralize USF senior forward Cole Dickerson, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds on the night. In addition to Burton three other Nevada players scored in double figures, with Michael Perez and Cole Huff scoring 15 points apiece and Jerry Evans Jr. adding 11.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES: 

1) No. 2 Michigan State 62, Columbia 53: Much to Tom Izzo’s chagrin the Spartans, fresh off of their win over No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday, came out with little fire against Columbia and struggled for much of the night. But some credit should be given to Kyle Smith’s Lions, who controlled the tempo throughout and likely would have won if not for Adreian Payne (26 points, 11 rebounds).

“We’ve just got to hope now that Kansas blows somebody out so [the voters] move them ahead of us,” Izzo said after the game. “We proved tonight we’re not ready to handle any kind of success, and that disappoints me.”

Michigan State hosts Portland on Monday, and one would suspect that they’ll show up more prepared to play.

2) No. 4 Duke 97, FAU 64: Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker was productive for the Blue Devils, who had no problem moving on from the Champions Classic. And Andre Dawkins, after playing just two minutes in Duke’s first two games, scored 17 points in 19 minutes off the bench. If he can be a consistent perimeter shooter for the Blue Devils, they’ll be even tougher to defend.

3) No. 12 North Carolina 62, Holy Cross 54: Like Michigan State the Tar Heels did not play well against a scrappy opponent, but Roy Williams’ team was still able to pull out to victory. Marcus Paige scored 23 points to lead the way offensively, and it’s quite apparent that this team needs P.J. Hairston on the floor. When that time will come who knows, but until he is UNC will have its issues offensively. And, the schedule will get tougher with games against Michigan State and Kentucky on the non-conference slate.

STARRED:

1) Roscoe Smith (UNLV): Smith was outstanding in UNLV’s 73-70 win over Omaha, posting a line of 17 points and 22 rebounds to lead the Runnin’ Rebels to a win they needed to get.

2) Jalan West (Northwestern State): 30 points (10-for-15 FG), nine rebounds, six assists and three steals in the Demons’ 111-92 win at Auburn.

3) Jabari Parker (Duke): Rodney Hood (28 points) was Duke’s leading scorer, but this selection’s about history more than anything. Prior to Parker’s arrival, no Duke freshman under Krzyzewski managed to score 20 points or more in each of his first three games. With his 21 points and ten rebounds against FAU, Parker accomplished that feat.

STRUGGLED: 

1) Auburn: Tony Barbee’s Tigers led Northwestern State 48-39 at the half, and then seemingly decided that they no longer needed to play defense. The Demons would score 72 second-half points and beat the Tigers 111-92.

2) Jon Severe (Fordham): The good news for Severe is that the Rams beat Lehigh, 80-72. The bad: he shot 5-for-23 from the field (0-for-10 3PT).

3) Angelo Warner and Bakari Turner (Morehead State): The two guards combined to score ten points in the Eagles’ 79-56 loss to Xavier, but they did so while shooting a combined 0-for-13 from the field.

NOTABLES:

  • Arizona State senior center Jordan Bachynski blocked six shots, which made him the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots (he passed Mario Bennett). Arizona State beat Idaho State 88-60 with Jahii Carson’s 19 points leading the way.
  • Two Brett Comer free throws with six seconds remaining proved to be the difference as FGCU came back to beat Furman 70-69. Comer finished with 21 points and Bernard Thompson added 20 to lead the way for the Eagles.
  • Kevin Ware made his regular season debut in No. 3 Louisville’s 99-54 win over Cornell. Ware scored five points in 13 minutes of action but it was Wayne Blackshear who stood out, scoring 20 points to lead the way offensively.
  • Trae Golden (18 points) and Daniel Miller (14 points, 13 rebounds) led the way as Georgia Tech beat in-state rival Georgia for the third consecutive season, 80-71.
  • Indiana welcomed back former assistant Bennie Seltzer on Friday, as he’s now the head coach at Samford. The Hoosiers weren’t all that hospitable to Seltzer’s players however, beating the Bulldogs 105-59.
  • Markel Brown (22 points), Phil Forte (22) and Marcus Smart (16) combined to score 60 points to lead No. 8 Oklahoma State to a 97-63 win over UAPB.
  • Cal freshman Jabari Bird scored 24 points to lead the Golden Bears to a 64-60 win over Oakland, which dressed just eight scholarship players.
  • Brandon Taylor (21 points) led four players in double figures as Utah whipped UC Davis, 94-60.
  • BYU guard Tyler Haws did not play in the Cougars’ 108-75 win over Mount St. Mary’s due to an abdominal strain. With BYU playing Colorado Mesa on Saturday and a game against Iowa State coming on Wednesday, it will be interesting to see if he plays.
  • South Florida point guard Anthony Collins made his season debut after missing the opener with a knee injury, accounting for seven points and five rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench in the Bulls’ 75-61 win at Bowling Green.

Old Dominion lands former four-star center

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Elbert Robinson came out of high school in 2014 as a borderline top-50 recruit with offers from the likes of Florida, Kansas and Louisville before he ultimately chose to attend LSU.

The 7-foot-1 center, though, never even averaged 10 minutes a game in Baton Rouge and now will be finishing his career as a graduate transfer at Old Dominion, according to multiple reports.

“Old Dominion was perfect for him,” Lawrence Johns, Robinson’s grassroots coach, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I know for a fact that nobody in (Conference USA) is over 7 feet.

“I told him to go there and show people why he was the No. 1 center the year he came out.”

Robinson, who sat out last year for medical reasons, could step right into a major role with the Monarchs, who lost their starting frontcourt this offseason. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game last year for the Tigers.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

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Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

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With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.